Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages [Private Members]
If the sponsors of the Bill are satisfied with these amendments, I am also satisfied as they seem largely to be a tidying-up exercise. This is a vital matter and I have received much lobbying on it. Both parental leave and parental benefit are important and they must be dealt with equally. It is clearly more difficult for an Opposition party to bring forward proposals on parental benefit, and that is why this is focused on parental leave. It is important as well.
There is much that must be done and I welcome the Minister of State's comments on recent meetings. Ireland ranked 32nd out of 34 OECD states at the end of 2016 with respect to maternity leave. This may have changed somewhat but we are still at that end of the table. If a family cannot afford not to work - a reality for many under pressure to pay the mortgage or rent - it can be a difficulty. The rate is too low and the period for which it is applicable is too short.
It is important to address the issue of parental leave as well as parental benefit. The flexibility that Deputies O'Sullivan and Shortall have outlined is vitally important in giving people options and flexibility. Ultimately, between both leave and benefit, we need to work towards a situation whereby there is a single block that can be divided between the parents at their own discretion. This is something we have asked for. It is the best model and one that exists in other states. As I said, it creates choice and flexibility. A lengthier period of paid leave, as well as, I hope, the Government addressing benefit, will assist families. In an increasingly stressful world, there needs to be more flexibility for parents to live lives and raise families.